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Musharraf resigns as Pakistan's president

The unpopular leader announced Monday he would step down, avoiding the drive to impeach him.

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Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation Monday, ending a nearly nine-year tenure that opponents said was hampering the country's shaky return to democracy.

An emotional Mr. Musharraf said he wanted to spare Pakistan from a dangerous power struggle with opponents vowing to impeach him. He said he was satisfied that all he had done "was for the people and for the country."

"I hope the nation and the people will forgive my mistakes," Musharraf said in a televised address, much of which was devoted to defending his record.

His political exit robs the West of a stalwart ally who echoed its concern about how Islamic militancy is destabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Al Qaeda and the Taliban have regained strength. However, his influence has faded since he stepped down as Army chief last year.

Pakistan's stock market and currency both rose strongly on hopes that the country was bound for political stability.

In his hour-long address, Musharraf said he would turn in his resignation to the National Assembly speaker Monday. It was not immediately clear whether it would take effect the same day. Mohammedmian Soomro, the chairman of the upper house of parliament, was poised to take over in the interim.

It remains an open question whom parliament will elect to succeed Musharraf, partly because the ruling coalition has vowed to strip the presidency of much of its power.

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